Sticking to the roots
Seattle is full of hills. For a person who prefers walking over any other means of transport but with a lack of stamina, it is challenging to take all the steps from the pier to enter Pike Place Market. Stairs and stairs passing by something which reminds department stores hoping to finally get there. And yes I am lucky, today there are not too many tourists around. It is the right time to take a few photos in an almost calm manner.
I’ve seen the fish and seafood at Pike Place some years back and was not convinced of the market as a whole. But I have to revise my view a bit. Despite all the new trends in turning market halls into food malls, this place has resisted pretty well this temptation. Other well known markets have not been able to do so, e.g. Borough market in London.
The salmon show
Pike Place Market is known for its salmon show: throwing a whole salmon across the stall from sales clerk to sales clerk. As the pound is being sold for 30$ or more, I believe the value is within the range of a nice TV set. I have been told that only a single salmon is being tossed around, as the flesh will get so bruised that it becomes unpalatable, unsalable.
This show is the real circus in this market, smartphones being lifted for taking videos. Everybody waiting to catch the moment when the salmon is in the air (I failed) flying over his mates laying on ice and being caught by blank hands a few meters further. It is one of those things: I don’t like this part of the market but I watch it as well.
The fish mongers are swift in offering anybody the chance to get the fresh or smoked salmon and other fish and seafood shipped across the US, as a whole or in big chunks. Little fortunes being deducted from the credit cards making the vendors and FedEx happy. Great service.
The traders are very generous in providing samples of such great and high value produce. I am wondering how they distinguish between potential buyers and free sample collectors. And the guys look sometimes tired answering all these questions which seem to be the same over and over again. My favorite question on customers – tourists or locals? – is being answered almost robot like: both are buying. I felt sorry for the guy handling me, and yes I did not buy any of the smoked salmon despite the good taste and his very generous sample. Thank you pal.
Salmon is at the core of the market, but there is more to discover from the sea, and it is definitely worth a look: halibut, tuna, king crabs, oysters, scallops. All the produce I cannot see in my home area, my eyes are wide open. There is a strong longing for such treasures to end up in my mouth, but pricing and a lack of cooking possibilities stop the desire.
What I overlooked the last time I visited Pike Place Market were the “normal” stalls. At least I recognized that the pasta stall was still there as I remember it 8 years ago. For the daily needs fresh vegetables and fruit were abundant, organic, local or not. Colorful enough and well presented to be tempted. A tasty diet should be the easiest thing possible in Seattle.
Strangely enough I did not see any dairy or butcher. Probably my memories are fading.
Flowers. I saw already lots of flowers at the market next to the Amazon HQ further away. And here again. Seattle people seem to be in love with flower bouquets, something I have not seen at any markets elsewhere. I have no explanation for that. Makes the market even more colorful on grey days.
Saturday was hell. That sunny day was full of people, mainly tourists like me. It was not pleasant anymore. Strolling along while being interested in the produce became difficult. My senses were more occupied by not stepping on someone than with the offering and the dealers. Pleasantly enough there was no aggressiveness, something a bit surprising. Nevertheless, Saturday would be off my list the next time, there are other markets in Seattle worthwhile visiting.
In my first post on Pike Place Market, I was quite negative on the market. I still believe it is overrated. I made my peace with the place when I started looking beyond the salmon show and noticed that it is still a good produce market as well. It has also withstood the temptations of becoming another food mall with more or less fancy street food. For this one alone the market deserves my respect.
All in all: Pike Place Market in Seattle is great for discovering the diversity of fish and seafood. As long as the crowds are not there. Then you can enjoy also the other offering.
A little link list:
- The Homepage of Pike Place Market
- Amy Stanton gives a nice introduction to Pike Place Market with some nice photos
- Twitter, Instagram, Facebook
- My earlier post on the market